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How to Buy Kids Software Online

thesmartster
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While these guidelines are great for determining if a specific program is suitable, it can still be difficult deciding where to start! Most schools have a computer lab and daily- or weekly- computer lab periods. Talk to your child or school and find out what programs they are currently using, or talk to your children's friends or their parents to see what they enjoy. Children will be more likely to use programs they are already familiar and comfortable with. You can often find the same programs, newer editions, or titles in the same series.

Most schools use one of more of the following titles: Oregon Trail , Amazon Trail , Yukon Trail , Word Munchers , Kid Pix , Reader Rabbit titles, Zoombinis titles, or Carmen Sandiego titles.

By Age, Subject, or Character:
Most children's software titles indicate a broad age range. While it really depends on your child's development levels, we usually recommend choosing a software program that's targeted at a slightly higher age range. For example, titles for ages 3 to 7 might be too simple for your seven year old. We'd recommend a program with different skill levels and a higher age range, like I Spy Spooky Mansion (Ages 6-10) or Reader Rabbit Personalized Reading with A.D.A.P.T. (Ages 6-9).

  • Grade Specific: Another good rule of thumb is to choose grade-specific titles such as Arthur's Kindergarten . These titles will cover a broad range of appropriate subject matter. Note that these titles have a limited age range, and are usually only appropriate for a year or two at most.

  • Age/Grade Range: While reading a product description is always helpful, and will usually indicate the targeted age or grade range and subject matter, we always recommend looking for impartial reviews online. By reading these reviews, often written by professional reviewers or parents (or both!), you'll be able to determine if a program is suitable for your child's individual needs. For example, the I Spy series is great for children who like riddles and problem-solving but may move too slowly for children used to action-filled video games and software titles.

  • TV Characters: If your child already is familiar with certain characters, like Scooby-Doo , Reader Rabbit , Sesame Street , or Dora the Explorer , they may be more inclined to play games featuring these characters. Many popular characters have an extensive software collection, each with a different age range. No one knows your child better than you! If a TV show is appropriate for your child's age and learning method, software titles featuring that character will usually fit your child's needs - the characters, learning style, and pace usually echo the TV show the software is based on.

System Requirements - IMPORTANT:
Looking at the system requirements is CRUCIAL. It's frustrating researching and purchasing the perfect software title, only to find that it won't work on your computer!

While most children's software titles were released in the last few years, many popular titles were released over five years ago. In computer terms - that's old! Always read the system requirements to make sure the program is compatible with your system. The most important requirements is usually the operating system, but you should always check all the requirements and make sure you meet or exceed the requirements. For example, some programs will refuse to run without a sound card, or will not work properly without a microphone (especially language or phonics software).

  • Windows Vista, XP, 2000/NT, and Macintosh Users: If you're running a Windows 2000 , Windows XP, Windows XP, or Macintosh (especially OS X) system, it's very important to check each program's system requirements. We really can't stress this enough. Titles in the same series don't always have the same requirements, and programs in different packaging might run on different systems! The system requirements should always explicitly include your operating system. Many publishers will not offer support if your platform is not included in the system requirements, so it's better to avoid buying those programs instead.

  • Windows 2000: Windows 2000 was made for a business environment, so many children's software publishers don't test their programs on a Windows 2000 or NT system.

  • Windows ME, XP, & Vista: Windows XP doesn't run on a DOS environment, so older programs that required DOS will not work on a Windows XP system. Many programs require Administrative rights to properly install or run on a Windows XP or Vista system, so keep this in mind. There's work-arounds if you want your child to be able to access the program from a limited-rights user account, but they're clunky at best.

  • Macintosh: Not all programs will work on a Macintosh system to begin with, and many will not work on an OS X system at all. The few programs that will usually require OS X Classic (basically OS 9 built-in) which is packaged with some earlier editions of OS X.

  • Not Sure?: If you're not sure if the program will run on your computer, the best idea is to contact the seller or publisher directly. Include as much information as you can about your system. An eBay seller that understands their product should be able to tell you if your operating system is supported.

Buying as a Gift?
If you're planning on buying a software title as a gift, be sure to check the product packaging details before you buy. Many titles are offered at a deep discount in paper 'sleeves' - in other words, no protective or decorative case. These sleeves are great for home use, since most home users can store the CD in their own CD case. However, the pared-down packaging doesn't have the same visual impact as a jewel case or box, and may not be your choice for a gift.

CDROMUSA will always CLEARLY indicate the product packaging. Some sellers will bury the product packaging in their seller terms, especially if it's not in a retail packaging, so read carefully.
 
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